|Dax is critically injured.|
Starfleet has received an emergency transmission from Lasaran (Todd Waring), a Cardassian double-agent who has been passing intelligence about the Dominion. Lasaran believes he is being watched and demands extraction. He offers an enticing prize for his rescue: Intelligence about every changeling remaining in the Alpha Quadrant!
Worf and Dax plan to meet Lasaran at a rendezvous point in a jungle near a Dominion base on the planet Soukara. Evading detection will mean landing their runabout, hiking roughly twenty kilometers to Lasaran's position, and then getting him back to the ship. All is on track - Until they are spotted by a Jem'Hadar patrol. They manage to kill their attackers, but Dax is critically injured, leaving Worf with a horrible choice: Save Jadzia, and lose Lasara and all of his intelligence; or complete his mission, and leave his wife to die!
Capt. Sisko: Tells Worf that the mission has to be more important than any one life, and bluntly spells out the consequences of failure to both the war and Worf's career. He declares that Worf and Dax will never be allowed to go on a mission alone again. But as a friend, and as a man who lost his own wife, he acknowledges that he understands why Worf would put Dax's welfare above the good of the mission.
Worf: Attempts to be more easygoing for Dax's benefit - a change that Dax finds somewhat disconcerting. When she is injured by the Jem'Hadar, Worf blames himself. He declares that he should have been more vigilant, instead of attempting to be someone he's not. He knows his duty as a Starfleet officer, and both he and Dax are fully prepared for him to leave her to complete the mission - but as soon as he leaves her side, he feels overwhelmed by the choice his duty demands.
Dax: Though it's more subtle, she is also making some adjustments for Worf's benefit. At the episode's start, they are chatting as they prepare for bed. When she notices that Worf is meditating, she stops talking and is respectfully silent until he finishes. She makes a brave effort to carry on once injured - and though the injury eventually becomes too much for her, she makes it farther than she really had any right to do (though one wonders why she didn't just go back to the shuttle - which was actually closer than the rendezvous point - once she was injured and wait there for Worf to complete the mission alone...).
Dr. Bashir/Quark: The episode's "B" plot sees Dr. Bashir pitted against Quark in a game of Tongo. When Bashir proves formidable enough to make Quark nervous, the Ferengi rattles him by bringing up Dax. He reminds the doctor about his once-dogged pursuit of her, empathizing with Bashir by revealing his own similar feelings: "You know what's really sad, what really keeps me awake at night? She's out of reach because we let her go... Deep down in our heart of hearts, we both know she's something unique, something we may never see again - a chance at true happiness- and we let her slip through our fingers. What if fifty years from now, we each look back and say, what a fool I was!" After Quark wins the game, he refuses to tell Bashir whether his words were true, or merely a tactic. It's a fantastic scene, one which takes an expendable and downright unwelcome subplot and pulls from it a genuinely great character moment.
Change of Heart is a solid episode that had the potential to be a great one. It has fine performances. Michael Dorn and Terry Farrell are terrific, both in their individual performances and in their interplay. Alexander Siddig and Armin Shimerman take what, up until Quark's big speech, is a typical Trek comedy subplot and make it into something fresh and interesting. And while Avery Brooks only shows up for one scene, his performance and Ronald D. Moore's script combine to make that scene feel important.
Once the rendezvous has been arranged, the main plot doesn't feature a character other than Worf and Dax until the final scene with Sisko. This allows Ronald D. Moore's script to focus on the relationship between the two characters, which has never felt truer or more believable than it does here. When Worf prepares to leave his wife, very probably to die, we can read the agony on both characters' faces, and we believe it when he turns back for her.
However, this focus comes at a price. With no other guest characters to shift the dynamics, we're left only with Worf and Dax and their journey across the Star Trek jungle set. Had the attack occurred, say, after they met with Lasaran, and had the rest of the episode featured all three of them, then there would have been some fresh interactions in the second half. Also, by making Lasaran a fuller character, this might have made Worf's trade of him for Dax something the audience felt more invested in. As it stands, we see Lasaran for exactly one scene, in which he comes across as two-dimensional and unlikable.
Still, the episode does its job. The Worf/Dax interactions are convincing and well-acted, and Worf's final choice and the promise of consequences for it make this feel like more than just a but a bit of expendable mid-season filler. It could have been more than it is... But it's still a solid episode.
Overall Rating: 6/10.
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